Pro-Israel Community Must Prioritize

Too many pro-Israel organizations seem driven more by the agendas of influential donors rather than by what makes the most sense for the pro-Israel community. It is up to us to work within those organizations to align them with our values. These should be our top priorities:

Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and curbing Iran's nefarious activities. Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen argues that Iran is Israel's foremost threat. There was never disagreement within the pro-Israel community about the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The partisan split was on how best to achieve that goal, with every Republican member of the House and Senate opposing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the overwhelming majority of Democrats supporting the JCPOA.

Jewish members of Congress supported the JCPOA by more than a 2-1 margin. That doesn't mean they were right, but it shows that one can be pro-Israel and support the Iran deal. It makes no sense to use the JCPOA as a pro-Israel litmus test when strong supporters of Israel were on both sides of the issue. The question is no longer whether the JCPOA was a good idea. It is now reality, and it is working.

The JCPOA was never intended to curb Iran's other activities; its sole goal was to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. We must stop Iran on other fronts, but as we do so, we cannot take our eyes off the ball: The first question we must ask about new sanctions designed to stop Iran's other activities is what effect they will have on our compliance with the JCPOA. Any pro-Israel organization that does not include countering Iran as a top priority needs to re-think its agenda. Any pro-Israel organization that does not explain the effect that new sanctions could have on the JCPOA is not doing its job.

Support the two-state solution. Former Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo argues that the occupation is Israel's only existential threat. This is a harder one because the threat to Israel is from within. But it is no less real. Israel has no credible partner for peace. That doesn't mean we give up. It means that we should work to create conditions that will allow serious negotiation and that we prevent both sides from taking steps that could make a two-state solution harder to achieve.

This is also a hard issue because some in Israel and America oppose a two-state solution and think that Israel can have it all -- democracy, a Jewish state, and the West Bank. Those of us who live in the fact-based world understand that Israel can only have two of the three, and time is running out.

Actively supporting a two-state solution means that pro-Israel organizations will alienate some people who, in good faith, disagree. But any pro-Israel organization that was willing to oppose a solid majority of Jewish members of Congress on the JCPOA but is not willing to oppose its right-wing constituency on the two-state solution by actively lobbying for two states needs to re-think its agenda. The American Jewish Committee, to its credit, supported the Price-Connolly letter. Every pro-Israel organization should have. If yours didn't, and if yours is not actively lobbying to build support for a two-state solution, ask why.

The Republicans took support for a two-state solution out of their platform. That doesn't mean the pro-Israel community must follow suit. Bipartisanship does not mean seeking the lowest common denominator; in this case, it means helping Republicans understand that support for a two-state solution is a bedrock principle of pro-Israel advocacy.

Support foreign aid. And not just to Israel. Here again, it's facts versus fiction. The foreign aid budget is a minuscule percentage of the federal budget, but advances U.S. interests throughout the world. Can we really support aid only for Israel--which will not be cut under any scenario--while not also fighting to preserve humanitarian aid and economic assistance?

And putting aside the ethics, it's not smart politically to let Israel become the sole or major recipient of foreign aid. Once again, the problem is not Democrats; it's Republicans obsessed with budget-cutting. Here too, the path to bipartisanship lies not in seeking the lowest common denominator, but in helping deficit-obsessed Republicans understand that the entire foreign aid bill is good for America and Israel. 

This includes aid to the Palestinian Authority. The payments the PA makes to families of terrorists are detestable, but Israel has not asked us to cut aid to the PA because a stable PA is essential for Israel's security, and more Israeli lives would be lost if the PA collapsed. Security arrangements with the PA are working: The West Bank's border with Israel is far longer than Gaza's border with Israel, but when was the last time a rocket was fired from the West Bank into Israel? Until and unless Israel asks us to cut aid to the PA, the best course is to continue to maintain aid at current levels, with deductions for amounts paid to terrorist families.

Fight the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. This is both the most emotional and the least important of the four priorities. Yes, BDS is bad, for all the reasons we know, and it is essential that we continue to fight it. But it's failing. It creates discomfort for college students, but even if universities did divest from companies doing business with Israel--which we must prevent from happening--Israel would survive.

Chemi Shalev writes that the BDS movement has caused only marginal damage, at worst, but "depicting the boycott movement as an existential threat only slightly less acute than an Iranian nuclear bomb enhances the sense of victimization, siege and the feeling that 'the whole world is against us,' which always helps the right."

The BDS fight on college campuses is not right vs. left. It's left vs. left. That's why we need genuinely progressive voices speaking on campus against BDS, not right-wing voices like StandWithUs and its surrogates, who only alienate the students they are trying to persuade.

The Senate confirmed David Friedman. The new ambassador to Israel is someone we can all be ashamed ofEvery Jewish senator voted against him.

Read the latest Trump Israel scorecard. For those keeping score at home.

The Senate is still considering Neil Gorsuch. Senate rules prohibit filibusters against ambassadors, but not Supreme Court nominees. While Gorsuch was busy informing the Senate that he is not God, the Supreme Court that he doesn't belong on read what he wrote and unanimously overruled one of his decisions. Urge your Democratic senators to support the filibuster.

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